Harley Davidson motorcycles have long since made an indelible impression on popular culture. There is a unique sense of freedom that these bikes provide and that is why so many people have a love and fondness for "biker culture". Unfortunately, many people have a negative opinion on bikers and this negative opinion can be traced back to one single event in 1947. Or, more accurately, the negative opinion can be traced back to the over the top, inaccurate reporting of the event.
So, let's turn back the clock and examine what happened in 1947 that altered the public's perception forever towards people who love Harley Davidson bikes...
The Hollister Riot
The event has become known as the Hollister Riot and it occurred on July, 4th 1947 in Hollister, CA. The event was a motorcycle rally that featured 4,000 members of the American Motorcycle Association. Motorcycle rallies had become increasingly popular in the post World War Two era as more and more men were taking up the hobby of group motorcycle riding. In this instance, the crowd organized to celebrate the American holiday. But why did motorcycle clubs become so popular?
The popularity of Harley Davidson
There were a number of reasons why motorcycle riding became popular. Obviously, they are fun to ride and offer a different experience than riding in a car. Most importantly, Harley Davidson produced excellent motorcycles that handled well on the road. This aided in promoting their appeal in the marketplace. Also, Harley Davidson motorcycles had developed a unique, adventurous image over the prior decades. During World War I, many Harley Davidson motorcycles were shipped overseas for use in combat situations. This forgotten piece of history aided in adding to the adventurous image these cycles achieved. All of these factors contributed to the growing popularity of the cycles and more and more people began to purchase them.
The Harley Davidson myth
This led to a weird myth that circulated in the late 1940's about Harley Davidson motorcycles and the men who enjoyed riding the cycles. This myth was the notion that the majority of the people forming motorcycle clubs were lonely, disaffected men who rode the highways looking for their niche in the world. While it is possible that a certain percentage of riders embodied such an antisocial image, the vast majority were simply having fun. However, stereotypes persisted and the Hollister Riots established the very negative (albeit) inaccurate opinion of such riders.
Really, there were no riots that occurred during the event. The main problem was lack of planning. The 4,000 people who showed up for the rally were far more than what was initially expected. This led to disorganization and overcrowding which, in turn, led to a little rowdiness, drunken behavior and a lot of reckless motorcycle racing. Unfortunately, the news media reported tales of biker's trashing the town, causing riots and committing acts of violence. Such exaggerations were incredibly inaccurate but the damage from the reporting was done. It led to a stereotype of Harley Davidson motorcycle owners which permeates to a certain degree to this very day. So, for better or worse, the Hollister Riots were a major defining moment in Harley Davidson history.
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